Contact information
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Subsidy schemes

When starting up your business, you can obtain financial support, as well as professional advice. A number of subsidy schemes are available, some of which are detailed below.

Generally speaking, a distinction is made between grants, promotional loans and guarantees. There are also schemes for certain target groups (e.g. start-ups from a position of unemployment, master craftsmen).

You need to apply for public subsidy schemes via your bank. The same rules apply here as for obtaining private start-up credit: The bank adviser must be convinced of your business concept and your personality as a business founder! Your bank will only submit your subsidy application to the funding bank if they have decided in principle to finance your project.

The STARTERCENTER NRW will be pleased to help you find the right subsidy and prepare for your meeting with the bank or savings bank.

Tip: Apply for funding in good time!

Follow the principle: apply for funding first, then start! Once your project has started, no further funding is usually granted. Even if you have already committed to financial liabilities, such as rental, purchasing, supplier or construction contracts, you may be deemed to have started your project.

Grants for start-up and advice

Grants are public contributions that you don’t usually have to pay back. The costs of a freelance start-up consultation are also subsidised.

Start-up grant/initial financial support

People who are starting up in business from a position of being unemployed may receive support in the start-up phase to ensure their livelihood. For start-up projects in the ALG I category, this is the start-up grant, for people starting up from a position of long-term unemployment, initial financial support may also be paid in addition to the ALG II . For the application, a competent authority (e.g. Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chamber of Crafts, local institution for economic development, financial institution, tax adviser, accountant, business consultant) needs to examine the business start-up project and confirm start-up capacity. The start-up grant and initial financial support are discretionary, not mandatory, benefits. That means there is no legal right to these benefits. They are granted as part of an individual agreement between the person interested in starting up the business and the person responsible for their case at the employment agency or job centre.

You can find detailed information about starting up from a position of unemployment and funding opportunities from local employment agencies. There is also section dedicated to this issue on the Gesellschaft für innovative Beschäftigungsförderung mbH (G.I.B.) [Association for Innovative Employment Promotion] website: www.gib.nrw.de

Go-to-Market voucher

With the ‘Go-to-Market Voucher’, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia supports young start-ups in the development of prototypes for digital products. Grants of up to 35,000 euros are available for this. Start-ups are important for the digital and sustainable transformation of the economy as they drive forward innovative technologies and solutions. A good prototype is crucial for a successful market launch. As young start-up teams often do not have all the necessary skills for prototype development, they need to bring in external experts at an early stage. These experts are co-financed by the funding.

At a glance

Micro-enterprises, start-ups and business founders based in North Rhine-Westphalia

Development of an innovative idea into a prototype of a digital product

One-stage application procedure
Further information on the Go-To-Market voucher and the application process, as well as dates and deadlines can be found at efre.nrw.de.

Business advisory programme

With the business advisory programme (BPW), the state of North Rhine-Westphalia subsidises start-up consultancies by independent business consultants. You will receive all the necessary information as well as the option to submit your application to the approved regional contact points (STARTERCENTER NRW, chambers and business development institutions).

The guidelines of the NRW business advisory programme as well as a model contract can be found in our download area.

You can find further information for those interested in setting up a business on the website of the IHK and the LGH.

Funding entrepreneurial expertise

The “funding entrepreneurial expertise” scheme can subsidise consultancy fees for young entrepreneurs in their start-up and consolidation phase, that is to say, within the first two years of starting up. Further information, such as for the application, can be obtained from the approved regional partners (STARTERCENTER NRW, chambers and business development institutions) or online at www.bafa.de

NRW master craftsman’s start-up award

The state of North Rhine Westphalia offers a subsidy in the form of a one-off payment of EUR 7500 to master craftsmen and women who are setting up in business for the first time and creating jobs in the process. The award may also be granted in addition to other forms of funding. The application must be submitted to the relevant chamber of trade before commencement of self-employment. Further information: Landes-Gewerbeförderungsstelle des nordrhein-westfälischen Handwerks [organisation for the promotion of trade and craft in North Rhine Westphalia]: www.lgh.nrw

Lutz Heinemann and Guido Röcken, Climbing Instructors and owners of a climbing park
Lutz Heinemann and Guido Röcken

Neither of us had any idea about how to run a business. Figures were pretty much a complete mystery to us. So we had to pick up the business expertise we needed in seminars. But we also realised that you grow with your challenges in the start-up phase. The NRW.BANK subsidy scheme helped us enormously when we implemented our initial projects.

- Lutz Heinemann and Guido Röcken, Climbing Instructors and owners of a climbing park

Public promotional loans

Public promotional loans offered by the state, the federal government and the European Union, can provide support for sound and convincing business ideas. They give you initial financial assistance as they mostly offer particularly favourable terms and conditions as regards interest rates, liability, term and repayment and they also reinforce security or economic equity.

Promotional loans from the NRW.BANK

The NRW.BANK is the funding bank for the state of North Rhine Westphalia. It is the first stop for people starting up in business as well as for existing small and medium-sized enterprises for public promotional loans. As well as offering loans, it also provides a range of financial support for start-ups and business security, such as indemnities, subordinated loans, venture capital and investment grants. Frequent use is made of NRW.BANK.start-up credit and NRW.BANK.universal credit. Before you apply, we would recommend that you book a free of charge initial consultation with your STARTERCENTER NRW. Further information: www.nrwbank.de

Tip: NRW.BANK subsidy scheme

Browse the subsidy database or give us a call. In the “Funding Recipients” section, you can restrict your search to start-ups.

Promotional loans from the KfW Bankengruppe

National subsidy schemes are provided by the KfW Bankengruppe. The key schemes for start-ups are ERP-start-up credit– start-up funds and ERP-start-up credit– universal. Further information: www.kfw.de or call 0800 5399001.


Even start-ups with a small credit requirement often have problems obtaining finance from their bank. To make it easier to get started, the NRW.BANK, in cooperation with the STARTERCENTERS NRW, offers a product known as a micro-loan. The German micro-finance fund is available through the German government.


Many start-ups often find themselves in the following situation: they want to make a success of their promising business idea, but their bank puts a halt to their plans - because they don't have enough security. Does that put an end to their dream? Certainly not! Because guarantees can be a substitute for a lack of security. Guarantor banks assume the risk that the customer’s own bank does not wish to assume by itself. As a requirement for applying for a guarantee, the person setting up the business needs to provide evidence of sound financial circumstances, commercial and professional qualifications and (probably) sufficient revenue.

Bürgschaftsbank NRW

The Bürgschaftsbank NRW [a guarantor bank] facilitates loan-financed investments for medium-sized enterprises and freelancers, by granting what is known as a “deficiency guarantee” for 80% of the amount of the loan (up to a maximum of EUR 1.25 million). Normally, a business holder makes an application for a deficiency guarantee to the bank that deals with their investment finance. However, a person can apply directly to the guarantor bank for a guarantee of up to EUR 200,000, without the need to involve their own bank (known as a “bank-free guarantee”) The benefit of this is that with a guarantor bank commitment in place, the business holder can present tangible security to their own bank right at the outset of negotiations. Further information is available at www.bb-nrw.de

Regional loan guarantees

For loans exceeding a total of EUR 1,562,500.00, regional loan guarantees can be granted. Applications for regional loan guarantees should be made to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) lending bank. Guidelines and application documentation is available at www.pwc.de – Search term: “Landesbürgschaften Nordrhein-Westfalen” [Regional loan guarantees North Rhine Westphalia].